A Night At Bikini Kill

Words: Connor Williams
Photo: Faith Thurnwald

There are few things cooler than seeing a band you never thought you’d get to see perform live. This was certainly the case for me when I recently attended the Meanjin/Brisbane leg of Bikini Kills 2023 Aus tour. The pioneering feminist punk band that helped to define the Riot Grrrl movement of the early 1990s which last played here in 1997, the year the band split up.

Local three-piece trans punk band Queerbait opened the night to a full room as the single support at The Tivoli, and I’m ashamed to say that I missed the first half of their set while I was hunting for beer. A mistake not to be repeated.

From the moment the band took the stage, the energy in the room was huge. Lead singer Kathleen Hanna launched into the opening of “Double Dare Ya,” and the crowd started pushing in. It was clear that this was going to be a sweaty night.

Throughout the show, the band played a mix of classics, gems from their back catalogue and newer material, all delivered with the same ferocious intensity that has made them so beloved by fans over the years. All the girls piled to the front and the crowd pulsed like a machine going into overdrive.

But it wasn’t just the music that made this show so memorable. Bikini Kill has always been about more than just the music, using their platform and image to promote feminist ideals and challenge the status quo. From the moment they stepped on stage, it was clear that this was still a core part of their mission.

Between songs, Hanna and the other members, Tobi Vail (drums) Kathi Wilcox (bass) and Erica Dawn Lyle (guitar) traded instruments and quips whilst they spoke candidly about their experiences as women in the music industry and the ongoing fight for gender equality. They inspired the crowd to take action and to support each other, creating a strong sense of community and solidarity that was palpable throughout the ballroom.

As the show drew to a close, the band launched into their iconic banger “Rebel Girl,” with Hanna singing the opening lines, “That girl thinks she’s the queen of the neighbourhood / She’s got the hottest trike in town.” The crowd went off in response, screaming and dancing along to every beat.

As I left the venue that night, I would not have been alone in feeling energized and inspired. Bikini Kill’s music may be more than 25 years old, but their message is as relevant today as it was when they first burst onto the punk scene. In a world that still struggles with issues of gender equality and representation, a world which has come a long way but not even close to far enough, they serve as a reminder that we all have a powerful voice and that we can use it to effect real change.